Why Is There a Disconnect in Kids' Minds Between Public Versus Private?

Excerpted from

Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence

By

Many adults are battled by young people's enthusiasm for putting pictures of themselves and very personal information all over social networking sites, but those same kids think it's an invasion of privacy when it comes to parents or teachers viewing the same information. Take a step back and realize that, from your daughters perspective, you aren't supposed to see it. That information is up there for her world to see it. You're supposed to be on another planet.

What is very confusing and painful to see is kids who are really surprised when their personal information is used against them. I see this as a version of invincibility and an example of the mentality that "it won't happen to me" that many of us have. I know it's hard to believe when we see kids shocked that their privacy has been violated, but as far as I can tell, their reaction is genuine. They don't seem to get it until it happens to them.

One-To-One Laptop Schools

Parents and schools alike have associated giving kids laptops with educational opportunities, but it creates as many problems as it solves. The thinking behind it, which I'll grant makes sense, is this: if you want to prepare students for the future, you have to introduce them to technology as early and often as possible. But one-to-one laptop programs aren't that simple, because students distract themselves by sitting at their desks writing instant messages, watching videos, or checking their Facebook page (I know-there are schools who block Facebook and YouTube, but most students know how to get around that using proxy sites) while they're in school. How do I know this? Because I e-mail with students all the time, and it usually takes them about five minutes to get back to me-during the school day. So you have to have structured, sophisticated, responsive guidelines to enable these programs to actually achieve the stated goal -to make students better able to work, not sitting in class writing mean messages to each other about the teacher or other kids in the class.

Constant Connectivity Weight on Kids

You can never escape your social network. The easiest way I can explain this is that the majority of students I sec sleep with their cell phones by their beds. Some kids even sleep with their phone on their chest.

This is a serious problem.

Ironically, many parents closely monitor what movies and television shows their children watch, put all sorts of filtering devices on the computers, and harshly judge those parents who don't. To their minds, their home is a protected bubble. But as soon as you let your daughter take her cell phone to bed at night there is no safety zone except the one that exists in your mind. Why? Because it's 2:00 A.M. and your daughter just got a text message about how everyone in the school hates her, or she was just sent pornography because someone in her class thought it would be funny.

The last time I wrote this book, just seven years ago, unless your daughter was physically sneaking out or someone was physically sneaking in, once your daughter was in her room at night, you could sleep peacefully knowing that she was safe and no one could do anything to hurt her. Now, if she has a cell phone or any kind of device that gives her Internet access, at some point she's going to bed at 4:00 A.M., exhausted and anxious. Three hours later, you walk by her room and get annoyed because she was supposed to be up a half an hour ago. At 7:30, she comes downstairs, barely eats breakfast, and is in a foul mood that you attribute to being a moody, lazy teenager. In frustration, you say, "How do you plan to do well in school if you aren't taking it seriously? Life doesn't wait for late people." She just looks at you like you're crazy and blows you off, making you even more irritated.

And, even if she's not getting hateful text messages, the fact that she's spending precious sleeping hours chattering away with her friends, unable to pull herself away from the constant conversation, infringes on her ability to do well in school. We need to help kids set boundaries with technology-not only to keep them safe, but also to let them know it's OK to be disconnected, even in a culture that tells us that that's not an option.

Now, if and when you disconnect your daughter in any way, you are going to get serious pushback. She's going to be mad, resentful, and indignant. If it helps at all, girls get mad at me, too, and I want to share with you a recent experience.

In the beginning of this school year, I met with a group of parents at a wonderful Catholic all-girls school in the Midwest. During the presentation, I challenged them to take their daughters' cell phones away when they returned home that night. The problem was that the next day, I had a presentation with their daughters. As I watched the girls file into the auditorium, I couldn't help but notice the death stares I was getting. So I went over to a group of girls to ask what was going on.

The girls did hate me. Or better said, they resented me. Why? Because to my surprise, their parents had actually listened to me and gone home and taken their daughters' cell phones away. Trying not to laugh, I asked the girls if they would hold off hating me until I had an opportunity to explain myself-then they could hale me as much as they wanted. My only request was that if I said anything that made sense to them, even if they didn't like it, they had to tell me. These are two of the responses I got after the assembly.

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Tags: Parenting and Families


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